First time moving to PR, family of 5

Hello everyone.  I am moving to Puerto Rico this summer 2019 for work.  I am employed for the government and will work at Fort Buchanan.  We are a family of five with three younger children.  I am looking for recommendations on locales to live based upon commuting time, safety, quality of life, and access to consumer goods/ services.  I have a budget of $3500/ month for rental and could even purchase, but probably don’t want to assume the risk of an uncertain housing market.  I would live in PR for two to three years. Schools are not important because we will homeschool unless we decide to utilize a private school (to be determined based upon finances).
1. We love the beach and near-ocean front seems ideal, especially if amenities are included.
2.  My wife is crazy for CrossFit so we need a location that offers these types of activities.
3. I’m willing to commute up to one hour (Fort Buchanan)
4. We prefer a community with some expats.
5.  We have our own household goods so do not require furnished— however, we could make furnished work.
6. Prefer a single family home but open to resort style living.  It would be new to us.
PS- i haven’t thought about living near the mountains so perhaps you can convince me...

Based on these factors, Where should we look for houses and why?

My other question is about what vehicles I should bring.  We have big American cars— a huge F150 4x4 and a super long Denali 4x4.  We used to live in Germany and these type of vehicles would have been really impractical there  due to parking and other things.  What’s the situation with PR?  I can sell them both and bring something much smaller but, of course, we live our current cars.

Thank you all in advance!

Hello Clay,

We were stationed in PR from 2013-2016 and lived in both Old San Juan and military housing in Bayamón.  One of the best things we did before our move was to go down a few weeks early to secure our housing.  It's very difficult to do things online and over the phone.  One of the key recommendations on this forum is 'boots on the ground', and I couldn't agree more.

Not sure if this will help, but you may find some listings in military-specific real estate websites.  Typically they prefer to rent to a military family, but might consider your situation.

I helped write a 'Helpful Hints' document to serve as a resource for incoming military members - I'd be happy to share that with you along with other military-specific information about PR.  Feel free to contact me via PM if you'd like.

Fort B MWR offers quite a bit of deals on local attractions and other events in PR.  You also may want to sign up for Gustazos (similar to Groupon) for more discounts and deals on things in PR.  We used this all the time.

Hope this helps!

Thanks Trekrider.  I would love to see your helpful tips.  To clarify, I am Military.  From what I’ve been seeing, there is no military housing but maybe I am getting bad information.  Is it on post housing managed by a housing office?  On that note, did you prefer on post or off?

Good tip in planning a recon trip.  We will add that to our summer plans.

We are USCG, so not sure how the Army handles incoming PCS moves.  There are certainly pros and cons to living on base and off, but in the long run, the benefits (for us) of living on base outweighed living in town.  I'll PM you a copy of the Helpful Hints document.

Have you been assigned a sponsor?  They are usually really good sources of information and can help point you in the right direction regarding the all the nuances about life in PR.

Trekrider, I sent you an email.
What about the vehicle situation?  Should I opt for a smaller, more sensible car or ship one of my vehicles (F150 or Yukon)-- I think the Army will ship only one.

We shipped our Honda Element and glad we did - many of the roads are in rough shape. Once we got to the island, my wife bought an island car from a PCSing co-worker for her daily commute to base. We eventually sold it before we left.  From what I remember, Fort B had a used car lot if you are interested in doing something similar. As a military member you’re allowed to keep your tags and registration (and drivers licenses)  for the vehicle you ship as well.

I suggest you visit before making any decisions.

most homes here are in URBANIZACIONES.... gated communities... there are hundreds of them based on your budget.  most places are not more than 30 minutes from the mountains or the ocean.
Get a realtor you can trust to show you the variety of homes and communities.
A very popular area is GUAYNABO which is very spread out.   You have a major mall, an excellent private school or two ,  in GUAYNABO  there are areas such as Los Filtros, Torremar, San Patricio, Bucare, and many more.

Thank you all for your comments so far.  This forum is a great resource.

Have any of you shifted from single family home living to condo/ resort- style living in PR?  If so, what have been your impressions or pros and cons as well as mentioning where (which city) you chose to live in.

I've always lived in a single family home and, with three children, have never really considered condo living but we would love to be near the ocean, and have access to amenities.

While we have not transitioned from a single family home to a condo, we do have friends who have.

They have indicated a few issues with the transition.

Living in a condo is impacted by the type of neighbors  you have - quiet and courteous neighbors are important, loud and obnoxious neighbors can really be a PITB.

Generally, weekdays are quite, but holiday weekends bring lots of visitors and relatives who over load the building and pool.  Loud and boisterous children can be a problem.

Maintenance issues can be an issue, if management is not prompt to correct a leak, repair the elevator, or other defects, it can be a royal PITA.

Just my observations based on our friends experience living in a condominium. 

Recommend renting before purchasing.  😎

HI Claybonz,
I think you are also in the FB group, I seen an entry very similar to yours.

Any way, my recommendations is to rent a place around Dorado, your 3,500 a month housing budget is HUGE. I pay 600 a month plus utilities for a 3 bedroom house away from Dorado. But the Dorado life style is likely to fit in with you.

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